Follow by Email

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Travelling through books - Moscow and Karachi

I got a subscription for two books a year from And Other Stories ( Even though, the subscription is just for two books, the publisher immediately sent me a digital copy of Happiness is Possible by Oleg Zaionchkovsky. The book was a breath of fresh air; light like a conversation with a neighbour, a series of linked stories about a writer, his dog and his relationship with his ex-wife and her husband. I have never visited Moscow, except for a six hour stopover on route to London once, but reading this book I felt like I was walking through the Moscow with the protagonist. And what a lovely, meandering walk through rain, sleet, snow, and the heat of long, summer days. I have to confess that I was a bit offended at the chapter, Dance, Lelik! and the "Halfwit" but I know that different cultures have different sensibilities and I remember on a trip back to Pakistan being asked by an elderly relative, why I worked with children with special needs and her hurried, whispered warning that "these things can be contagious" and my own silent fury at this discrimination. It's not an excuse but in places where resources are scarce, generosity, at times, is even skimpier.

Just as Moscow was present throughout Happiness is Possible; Karachi is present in Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Muhammad Hanif. Perhaps, because Our Lady of Alice Bhatti is not a translation, the language is crisper, more efficient, and while both books are darkly humorous, Muhammad Hanif's humour is much darker. Perhaps, it's because the spaces they occupy are so different. Present day Karachi is a city of sharp contrasts; the rich - the poor, the clean spaces of Defence and the dirt of the rest of the city, the vastness of the desert and the sea cradling the congested metropolis, the generosity of citizens like Sattar Edhi versus the armed robberies, the cell phone snatchings, and kidnappings, which are daily part of life in the city.

The subscription is interesting. It gives me a free ebook from their backlist, I get thanked by name in the books I subscribe to, and can contribute to their choice of future books.

No comments:

Post a Comment